Review of Shorthand Dictation Studies

 And some early remarks on Gregg Speed Building for Colleges

Carlos has previously recommended Shorthand Dictation Studies by Wallace B. Bowman as a good text for the shorthand student who is just entering the intermediate realm. I wholeheartedly endorse this suggestion.

This volume is truly excellent for any number of reasons. The quality of the reading material, the vocabulary / phrasing drills, and the outlines, along with additional tools for things like making corrections during dictation, and “striking out” parts that the dictator has withdrawn–which I think are still useful today for situations like classroom lectures.

Plurals and derivatives, too often missing in the dictionary, manual or other beginner-level texts, are given much needed emphasis. And many outlines and phrases are repeated for extra review.

The outlines are well-constructed, neat and legible. The plate writer is not identified, but the style pays due respect to the ideal defined by Winifred Kenna Richmond.

To top it off, all the words and phrases are indexed at the end of the book, providing an extremely useful reference to supplement the dictionary. And the book was published in both an Anniversary and Simplified edition.

Anyone ready to take the leap into intermediate study could hardly do better than to start with Mr. Bowman’s book.

. . .

Although I’m only about 15% through Gregg Speed Building for Colleges (1943), it’s not too early to share a few observations.

The book has much to commend it with vocabulary studies grouped to expound specific principles of word construction, and the phrasing studies are out of this world! Good reading material, along with useful pointers for the attainment of accuracy and speed. These by themselves make it a must for eventual study.

I have one reluctant criticism. Mr. Zoubek wrote the plates for this book, and surprisingly I find a considerable amount of his work rather disappointing. Not that it’s that bad overall, but there are times when his proportions are just atrocious.

This is quite ironic, as I went through Functional Method Dictation first–where his outlines are more “real world,” to borrow Carlos’s phrase. Yet I almost never had any problem reading his outlines. I found it rather quite instructive! Not so with GSBfC.

Perhaps he was just better suited to that type of writing–not that that’s a bad thing. In the present volume it’s as if he’s trying to write like Mrs. Richmond and it just doesn’t work.

Fortunately it doesn’t really detract from the book’s undeniable usefulness, but in my opinion it is a sufficient reason for recommending Mr. Bowman’s book first.

Sadly, the GSBfC book has no vocab/phrase index, which considerably diminishes its value as a reference. The first Anni Speed Building book in 1932 wasn’t nearly as comprehensive as the Colleges book, but at least it had an index–and Mrs. Richmond as plate writer.  🙂

6 comments Add yours
  1. Thank you for this great review. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks highly of the SDD book. The second edition was later published for Simplified Gregg, and the third edition published in 1961/1966 came in Simplified and DJS versions (I have the Simplified version). The plates were written in the third edition by Grace Bowman, and I believe she had been the plate writer in the previous books. She had a beautiful style very reminiscent Mrs. Richmond's own, and even with the extra strokes in Simplified Gregg, the outlines still look just outstanding.

    I think that probably one of Zoubek's best examples of writing is in the Gregg Shorthand Reporting Course, which was all taken from dictation and it looks fantastic.

    1. I like all of Zoubek's work–so far with only this one exception.

      Although his "real world" outlines are a departure from Mrs. Richmond's ideal, that's surely what most of us do when reaching higher speeds. But in those cases, like FDM or the Speed Drills book, his style has a smooth flow to it and a consistency that still makes them eminently readable.

      (The only thing I had to get used to was his "ng" and "nk," which were more horizontal than the slight downward motion I had come to expect.)

      But in the Colleges book his outlines seem choppy and forced, as if he was struggling to write in a way other than his natural style.

      I only offered this opinion in the context of comparing and contrasting with the Bowman book–that indeed the material in Colleges is phenomenal and should be ready on the book shelf, but there is this one problem. I would have been really frustrated if I had started off with Colleges for my intermediate study.

      And that's the crux–go with Bowman first. 🙂

  2. I have Shorthand Dictation Studies, Third (Jubilee) Edition, shorthand plates written by Grace A. Bowman. I frankly find the shorthand outlines in this edition very hard to read. Overall they look "normal" on the page, but when I start reading I find the individual outlines are out of proportion, with some non-standard ways of forming some letters and joins, and there is an impression of meandering and spread in many of the outlines.

    Maybe Mrs. Bowman's writing skill had started to deteriorate a bit by the time this last edition was prepared.

    1. I'm Alex. One of those unfortunate people whose parents didn't call me by my first name . . . so I usually show up as Lee (my first name), and sometimes don't forget to switch to Alex (what everyone calls me). Nonetheless, 6 years later, I still have the same opinion about the "Jubilee" edition of SDS.

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